Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect 2016 deals and giveaways.
The defining characteristics of a grilled cheese sandwich might seem obvious: gooey, melted American slices clasped between crispy, buttery white bread. Cut it diagonally and dip those warm and toasty triangles in Andy Warhol soup. Right?
Is that the sound of chirping crickets? Perhaps, because today a "classic" grilled cheese comes in many varieties. So many, that culling a list of those available on Dallas menus suggests nothing less than an identity crises. Is a grilled cheese a grilled cheese if it has chutney? How about garlic mayo or house-made pickles? Exactly how much "brown sugar rubbed bacon" or Manwich Sloppy Joe sauce does it take before you have a different sandwich altogether?
But who cares when the subject is "cheese rainbows"? (That's how Yelper Lisa P. describes Lee Harvey's grilled cheese, at least.)
For the seventh consecutive year, Norma's Café will offer free classic cheesies to customers at all locations on April 12. It's in honor of National Grilled Cheese Day, which technically falls on Sunday, April 12 this year. There's no purchase necessary, and last year owner Ed Murph estimated they gave out over 2,000 freebies.
But, why wait? We rounded up grilled cheeses from menus across Dallas.
Categorizing them was no easy-cheesy task. We've broken them down into Classics, Fancy-Pants Fromage, Macho Meat Marvels and Sammiches With A Little Spice, but there's definitely blurred lines between boundaries. Further, we've tried to make the list as comprehensive as possible for Dallas proper. Don't see your favorite here? Shoot us an email and we'll add it.
Highland Park Old Fashioned Soda Fountain's Grilled Cheese: This no-frills variety comes on white, wheat or rye bread with a slice of American cheese. Doctor it up with bacon or barbecue, or keep it plain and simple with a pickle spear and a chocolate malt.
Maple & Motor's Grilled Cheese Sandwich: This place specializes in "low class cool" and the menu offers a straight-up "baloney sandwich," so you know they get simplicity-with-style. The Grilled Cheese comes with your choice of American, cheddar or pepper jack, "perfectly melted" on Texas Toast.
Cock & Bull's Gouda Grilled Cheese: For a self-professed "neighborhood pub," they sure know how to slam some bar food down. You won't find much online, but according to Yelpers, their grilled cheese is set up on white toast, with avocado, gouda and tomatoes.
The Porch Grilled Cheese: This one's divisive on Yelp, but its lovers love it, yahurd? Executive Chef Adam West (no, not TV's Batman) stuffed a brioche bun full of super-rich cheeses including gruyere, provolone and Tillamook cheddar, then added a tomato. It comes with heavy, creamy roasted tomato soup on the side.
Angry Dog's Mom's Grilled Cheese: This Deep Ellum cult favorite is so nice we list it twice. (Angry Dog gets another mention below.) Here, this classic sandwich comes with Monterrey jack and cheddar cheeses grilled between slices of wheat bread. Simply put: uncomplicated. Add avocado, bacon, ham or turkey, if you so desire.
Ruthie's Rolling Cafe's Extra Cheesy Classic: Sure, you can go with the old school Plain Jane, but this food truck extraordinaire classes up classic with the Extra Cheesy. That's Swiss, cheddar, mozzarella and pepper jack on sourdough for a salty, sexy overload.
Stackhouse Burger's Griddled Cheese: From jalapeños to mushrooms and onions, there's not much this East Dallas eatin' hole won't grill, and cheese is definitely on the agenda. Their Griddled Cheese comes with cheddar, Swiss and smoked Gouda, topped with tomato and smoked bacon.
Angry Dog's The Natural: Not technically billed as a "grilled cheese," this vegetarian vehicle for cheese comes with guacamole, grilled mushrooms, sprouts and Monterrey jack grilled between two slices of Texas toast. It's for those who need a little green with their grill.
Sundown at Granada's Greenville Grilled Cheese: Say you're looking for locally-sourced, farm fresh ingredients and a rooftop patio. Then, we'd say to head over to Sundown and try out their Full Quiver Farms Raw Milk Colby Cheddar, goat cheese and Mozzarella Co. Oaxaca sandwich topped with avocado and tomato chutney on toasted sourdough bread. Fan-cy.
Hattie's Restaurant's Tomato Bisque: You might be thinking, "Hey, bisque is a soup, not a sandwich," and you would be right. But what you might not know is this self-described "American bistro with a southern low-country influence" in Bishop Arts serves a mini grilled cheese perched on the rim of their bisque. (For lack of a more sophisticated description, it sits on the side of the bowl like a lemon on a glass of water.) It's available all day and it's adorable.
Scardello's The Mountaineer: It's a cheese shop. It dedicates its entire existence to the proliferation of cheesery. So you know Scardello doesn't play when it comes to the grilled variety. The Mountaineer comprises three hand-made mountain cheeses melted on slices of country farmhouse bread.
Also, consider trying Stewart's Cheddar Press featuring "Texas' own Veldhuizen Cheese Company's Redneck Cheddar melted over dill pickles," according to the menu.
Uncle Uber's Sammich Shop's Grilled Cheese: This Deep Ellum joint's got a "laid-back Austin feel" and a heavy-hitting craft beer list. As one might imagine from its name, it also boasts a number of creative sandwiches, and its Grilled Cheese doesn't disappoint. It's got "warm, melty provolone" with roasted red peppers and garlic mayo on toasted sourdough.
Cheezie's Gourmet Grilled Cheese: This kid-friendly Frisco shop's got so many gourmet grilled cheese options, it'd take a lifetime ... or, well, a solid week, to barrel through the menu. Want smoked brisket and onion marmalade? Done. Smoked turkey with roasted pears and melted brie. You're set. A place to enjoy cheesy heavy with the little ones in tow? Welcome to Cheezie's.
Dallas Grilled Cheese Company's JK's Favorite, et al.: This newly opened Bishop Arts locale has loads of local craft beer, so it stands to reason that one of its dunk-worthy soups is, in fact, called the Cheesy Brew Soup. It features celery, garlic, yellow onion, thyme, butter, heavy cream, various cheeses, and a local micro-brewed beer "for good measure."
But the sandwiches are Dallas Grilled Cheese Com'any's forte, and it's JK's Favorite that has gotten the most noise on Yelp. That's parmesan-crusted grilled sourdough with American, cheddar and Gruyere cheeses, plus crumbled bacon and Dijon mustard.
Like your cheesy sammies extra hearty? The Dude includes lean ground beef, original Manwich Sloppy Joe sauce and white cheddar grilled down on two slices of sourdough.
Norma's Café: Did we mention that you can get a classic grilled cheese for free from Norma's on April 12? Yes, yes we did.
Macho meat marvels
Full Circle Tavern's Fancified Grilled Cheese: Full Circle Tavern house cures its own bacon, and while Yelpers can't always pinpoint why it's good, they just know it is super-hella special. Many say that's why its Fancified Grilled Cheese stands above the rest, but you've got to be sure to add it on.
The sandwich comes with cheddar, goat cheese and provolone on Texas toast with a side of pickles, and it's highly recommended to top it off with the FCT bacon. On Yelp, Steven H. calls it "THE best bacon on the planet. It is a succulent, relatively thickly-sliced party in your mouth - glazed with a black crack[ed] pepper/brown sugar run."
Nodding Donkey's BBQ Brisket Grill Cheese: Yelpers disagree a bit on the merits of ND's sweet-n-cheesy sandwich, but it's not without its fans. Heli M. said she was ready to "take a nap right then and there" after a few bites.
The soporific sammich comes with chopped brisket, homemade barbecue sauce, bacon and melted cheddar on Texas toast. Is it a grilled cheese or an utter meat feat? That's up to you to decide.
The Common Table's Grilled Cheese: Care for marinara? Strangely, that's the dipping sauce included with this mix of roasted pork tenderloin, cheddar, provolone and parmesan on sourdough. On second thought, that's not so different from a traditional tomato soup side. Cin cin!
Common Table suggests beer/wine pairings right on the menu. Wash it down with a Lagunitas Hop Stoopid or a glass of Mark West Pinot Noir.
Goodfriend's BBQ Grilled Cheese: They may be known more as a burger place, but this friendly East Dallas beer den also serves up a toasted brioche sandwich loaded with yellow cheddar, angus brisket, grilled onions and fresh jalapeños.
Sammies with a little spice
Libertine Bar's Grilled Cheese: From beer to cocktails to hardcore-good food, there's little, if anything, this Lower-Greenville spot can do wrong. Its Grilled Cheese is no exception. With jalapeno and cheddar Texas toast, and a chili and bacon cheese blend, topped with avocado and tomato, it's a caliente concoction for dinner or Sunday brunch.
All Good Café's Grilled Cheese with Green Chiles: Need a little New Mexican flare? This Deep Ellum mainstay puts roasted green chiles and roma tomatoes over a blend of cheddar and pepperjack cheeses and tops it with chipotle mayonnaise on sourdough bread.
Lee Harvey's Jalapeno Grilled Cheese garners some of the most enthusiastic reviews from Yelpers, in fact, Lisa P. describes it as boasting "cheese rainbows (melty strings that you have to pull for like 6 feet before they break)."
According to the menu, it's made up with swiss, jack, and cheddar cheeses on jalapeno bread, and she recommends pairing it with an order of fries and what she calls "Magic & Crack" aioli, adding "I think that's what they put in it, anyway."
Yelper Kaz F. adds that the secret to the sandwich is not only freshly grated cheese, but the jalapeno bread from Empire Baking Company.
Tom + Chee: This Shark Tank success story has plenty to offer by way of the grilled cheese. Want to build your own? It's in your hands. Looking for something fancy? How about grilled mac and cheese on bread or bacon and bleu? You've got it.
But, what raises the biggest eyebrows is Tom + Chee's grilled cheese doughnut menu -- yes, an entire section dedicated various styles. That means you can get them with bacon and chocolate, topped with brie and blueberry compote or banana and peanut butter, just like the King.
Honestly, it's too much, yet we can't get enough.
Glazed Donut Works' Donut Grilled Cheese: Items featured on late night menus fall into two categories: Orders of desperation or the epic apex of an unforgettable evening. By definition, they carry that "up to no good" appeal, and the fact that Glazed Donut Works only offers their Donut Grilled Cheese occasionally makes it one sexy special.
If you get your hands on it, the Donut Grilled Cheese consists of "mild cheddar with thick applewood smoked bacon sandwiched between a butter griddled glazed donut," according to photographer Alexandra Olivia.